Hacking Your Sleep Strategy – 7 Steps To Successful Sleep
Get Those ZZZs
Hacking Your Sleep Strategy: When you wake, do you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your day? Or, do you wake up feeling exhausted? Do you toss and turn at night, waking at the slightest noise or movement? If so, you might be a light sleeper.
Not getting the recommended amount of sleep can have serious short and long-term impact on your physical and mental health. Sleep disruptions contribute to weight gain, a lowered immune system, impaired concentration and memory, slower reaction time, errors, and accidents. Studies have even shown that low sleep quality impairs our cognitive and motor functions, the same way that drinking too much alcohol does.
The quality of your sleep is affected by a number of internal and external factors - genetics, age, and lifestyle play significant roles in the type and length of sleep stages and sleep cycles you experience. For light sleepers, the consequences of low-quality sleep can be distracting at the least and dangerous at worst. But there are many ways to improve your sleep strategy. Some of our favourite tactics for conquering light sleep problems include:
HACK YOUR SLEEP STRATEGY - 7 STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SLEEP
SLEEP STRATEGY #1:
Lower the bedroom temperature. Bedroom temperature affects sleep quality even more than external noise. If the room is too warm, it interferes with your body’s natural nightly temperature dip and makes you more restless through the night. Research suggests that your bedroom should be between 60-67 degrees F (15-19 degrees C) and that temperatures above 75 degrees (24 C) or below 54 degrees (12 C) interfere with sleep.
SLEEP STRATEGY #2:
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Establish a consistent bedtime schedule. After awhile, your brain will automatically cue you that it’s time to start feeling tired. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read a book or listen to soothing music. Then, go back to bed when you’re tired.
Wake at consistent times, even on weekends. Irregular sleep patterns can confuse your circadian rhythm, causing you to lose quality sleep. Eventually, once your sleep/wake cycle is consistent, you might not even need to set a morning alarm!
SLEEP STRATEGY #3:
Consider a technical shutdown 2 to 3 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from computer monitors, tablets, TVs, and smartphones closely mimics the light emitted by the sun, causing our bodies to lower production of sleep-inducing melatonin. In fact, an article in Scientific American says, “The light from our devices is ‘short-wavelength-enriched,’ meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.”
SLEEP STRATEGY #4:
ADDRESS YOUR STRESS
If you think that your light sleeping issue is stress-related, try to figure out what’s stressing you out. In the case that it's situational, consider making some life changes. If not, it might be time to consult a mental health professional who can teach you how to change your thought patterns or who can determine if medication is needed.
SLEEP STRATEGY #5:
Consider supplements that are scientifically proven to help you relax, reduce stress, and sleep better, but make sure to try them one at a time. For example:
Plant-Based: Valerian Root, Lavender, Passion Flower
Amino Acids: Glycine, L-Theanine, Tryptophan
SLEEP STRATEGY #6:
SOAK UP SOME SUN
Get some morning sun. Our eyes have special receptors called melanopsin that help us wake up and stay alert. They work in conjunction with our hypothalamus, which controls your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep/wake cycle. Together, they play a role in triggering the release of serotonin in the brain – the neurotransmitter that helps regulate natural sleep cycles. Getting plenty of bright light early in the day, preferably within one hour of waking will help you feel more energetic, and sleep more soundly at night. If possible, snag a desk by a window and if you don’t have access to sunlight, consider purchasing a light therapy box to use indoors. Also, take a walk outside on your morning break without sunglasses, which filter the full-spectrum light and confuse the signal received by your brain.
SLEEP STRATEGY #7:
CURB YOUR CAFFEINE
Avoid all forms of caffeine (like coffee, black tea, some sodas, and energy drinks) or any other stimulants past noon. Researchers at Wayne State College of Medicine and the Sleep Disorders & Research Center analyzed the sleep-disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at different lengths of time before bed. They found that caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quantity and quality. Therefore, if you’re in the habit of drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening, try switching to decaffeinated coffee or an herbal tea. Also, check the labels on other drinks and supplements.